Thoughts on: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

December 28, 2011

About:
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is a novella written by the Scottish born author. The 1886 work is considered a classic of British literature.

  • 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • ISBN: 0393974650

My rating for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde4

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Thoughts:
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is a well known novella which deals with split personality.

I found it interesting that the book has only two settings, letters and laboratory. Not the clean, sterile laboratory we imagine, but a disgusting, dirty and bloody one which implores the reader to feel the Gothic horror which the author wishes to convey. In this environment is where Mister Hyde is created, a troubled figure, mean and unabated.

Mister Hyde is what Dr. Jekyll wants to be but suppresses within himself. Hyde yearns for violence and sexuality, he is full of strength, uncaring and out of control – or is he actually in full control?
Mr. Hyde celebrates the nature of men unhindered by social norms, rules or laws while Dr. Jekyll self censors himself as a proper gentleman should in Victorian England.

As time goes on, this novella could be read in several ways. There is the most known one, that of split personality, but also could be a pathological angle of investigating the nature of mental illness.  In these days, where science, technology and medicine is much more advanced, the story could also be read as a warning on the extreme use of mind altering chemicals, drugs or alcohol and the self destructive properties of such actions.

But Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde could also be read as a philosophy book which deals with the knowledge that we are all on death’s door. Death, in this case, is represented as a man of flesh and blood. A psychoanalyst could also, somewhat justifiably, could read the story as the psychotic and narcissist fantasy of Dr. Jekyll.

I found the book’s subject disturbing, not because of the murder or Goth involved, but more on a psychological level. The possibility of every individual leading a double life is a scary thought, especially when it comes to loved ones. How often, when a grotesque murder occurs, we hear the almost laughable lines “he was such a nice guy” or “she was a wonderful mother”?

Another side of the story, and I say that as a fan of Mr. Stevenson’s work since an early age, I can certainly see a pattern of commentary on Victorian England where, as is today, a person’s wealth and social standing relieves them of any moral obligations towards their fellow men or women.

So tell me, can rich people still get away, literally and figuratively, with murder?

Books in a similar vein:
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Synopsis:
Prosecutor Gabriel John Utterson has taken certain interest in Mr. Edward Hyde even since he trampled a little girl. The crowd gathered forced Mr. Hyde to make retribution, however the check he gave the girl was signed by Dr. Henry Jekyll.

Mr. Utterson also discovers that Mr. Hyde is the sole beneficiary of all of Dr. Jekyll’s wealth. Utterson tries to discuss the matter of Mr. Hyde with the good doctor which, as one might guess, doesn’t yield any results.

A year later a member of the British Parliament is murdered and the maid identifies Mr. Hyde. Utterson confronts Dr. Jekyll who shows the lawyer a letter in which Mr. Hyde states that he is will disappear forever.

Sometime later, suspecting foul play Utterson breaks into Dr. Jekyll’s house where they discover Mr. Hyde who has just committed suicide by drinking poison.  Through letters Utterson pieces together Dr. Jekyll’s double life.

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Zohar – Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I got this book for free.
Article first published as Book Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson on Blogcritics.

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8 Comments

  • Jonathan December 28, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Awesome review, and very insightful thoughts on the book. Stevenson is awesome, isn’t he? One of my favorites.

    But to answer your question, yes, I think that the richer you are the more likely you are to be able to get away with murder. It’s been that way since the justice system was established, mostly because if you can pay for a good defense attorney, you stand a much better chance of getting off.

    I will say that it’s not exactly the same as it was in Victorian England. In that time period it seemed as though there was more of a separation between public and private life. As long as the public and the private never intersected, society at large was willing to turn a blind eye to whatever indiscretions were perpetrated. Today people seem to be a good bit more… intrusive.

    • Zohar - Man of la Book December 28, 2011 at 9:51 am

      Yes, our society is “a bit” more intrusive. Quite disgusting actually.

      I think Steven­son’s point is that while a poorer man would suffer serious consequences to his actions, the rich just take out their checkbook.

      I agree, it’s still the same.

  • Sam (Tiny Library) December 30, 2011 at 6:46 am

    I’d like to read this if only because it’s one that everyone knows the story too, yet few people have read. Thanks for the review.

  • Ryan December 31, 2011 at 1:30 am

    This is one of those books that I have been familiar with most of my life, but have never managed to read yet. I think I need to one of these days, just so I can discover the real story for myself. Thanks for the review.

  • Okie January 3, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Great review/overview. The first time I read this book was in High School. I remembered generally liking it but couldn’t remember why, so I re-read the book a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. On my re-read I was surprised by the closed setting and tight introspection. Thanks to movies and other pop-media, I had expected much more adventure around the city. This is one of those books I plan to read again and again throughout my life…if nothing else, as a trip down an introspective psychological review. 🙂

  • Julie @ Knitting and Sundries January 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I’m committed this year again) to reading at least one “Classic” a month. I read this one SO long ago that it’s due for a re-read.

  • Bev@My Reader's Block June 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Great review–and I appreciate your thoughts on status and whether wealth lets people off (then and now). I will point out that Utterson’s relative did make a point of getting Hyde to do something for the family of the little girl. In that case, I wonder if he did it more out of a response to how repulsive Hyde is rather than because it was the right thing to do. Hyde dresses like a gentleman (even though he doesn’t behave like one)–if he had been taken at face value based on his dress (instead of whatever indescribable thing it was about him that made people disgusted), would he have been forced to offer reparations?

    • Zohar - Man of la Book June 5, 2012 at 7:52 am

      Bev, yes, I remember Utterson’s act but that was part of Stevenson’s commentary I believe because Hyde was forced to do so even though he had the means.
      I also thought that it was very neat that Stevenson didn’t make Hyde look like a bad guy, the movies botched up the story using the same actor as Jekyll and Hyde.

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